Do you ever watch ghost hunting shows? If you do, then you know that they follow a few simple tropes. The ghost hunters walk around a spooky location. At night. With lots of gizmos. They talk to the ghosts (a.k.a. empty rooms) and then have routine freak-outs over strange noises, random changes in thermal images, and during every single episode someone claims they were touched by something cold. It’s mandatory. Maybe the shows are popular because they are so predictable, like fast food. Sure, it isn’t good for you, but you know exactly what you are getting. And for many of us they are guilty pleasures. The shows are well-designed to give you goosebumps with music, dramatic camera changes, and creepy night vision shots. I love these shows. So do just about all kids. And that is why they are perfect for teaching some critical thinking skills, especially on Halloween.
By helping kids identify the tropes used in such shows you can take something fun and spooky and empower kids to see it for what it is: entertainment. This doesn’t take away the fun of spooky things. In fact, it makes things like ghost hunting shows even more fun because they transform from scary mysteries to puzzles that kids can actually solve. Kids can learn the tricks that shows use to give us goosebumps, and begin to spot how “evidence” for ghosts is really lacking.
To play simply print off the bingo cards, turn on your favorite ghost hunting show, and see who gets bingo first. I have found that when kids play this game they automatically begin to speculate about why the same tropes are always used. Why they are not really proof, and what kind of proof would actually support the idea that there are ghosts. These bingo cards are not just good fun, they can kick off some great critical-thinking conversations.
And if you are interested in ghost hunting and want to learn more about it from a skeptic, check out Kenney Biddle. He is a former ghost hunter who is the Chief Investigator for the Center for Inquiry. He has a great social media channel where he deconstructs how paranormal videos are made. My kid loves his stuff. Yours might too!